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I wish grandpas never died

“And I wish even cars had truck beds
And every road was named Copperhead
And coolers never run out of cold Bud Light
And I wish high school home teams never lost
And back road drinkin’ kids never got caught
And I wish the price of gas was low and cotton was high
I wish honky tonks didn’t have no closing time
And I wish grandpas never died.”

These are lyrics from country singer Riley Green’s 2019 magnum opus, “I Wish Grandpa’s Never Died.” Dedicating this song to his two late grandfathers, Green credits them as co-writers on a track that has been streamed 130 million times in 2022 alone. If you haven’t listened to this song, please do. Because I guarantee it will at least bring up memories of growing up. For me, it reminds me of my grandparents.

Like many teenagers and young adults across the country, I grew up with grandparents who had a massive impact on my development as a child of God. And like so many other kids, I have helped lay my paternal grandparents to rest. I never met my maternal grandparents due to their passing before my parents’ wedding, but for 25 years, my grandparents never knew the word “no” when it came to the needs of their 11 grandchildren. Devoted, tireless and generous to a fault, Steve and Marilyn lived a life of service and integrity that is rarely seen. I miss them dearly and am grateful for the presence they had in my life and in the lives of others.

This week commemorates the second anniversary of their passing, as my grandpa Steve died eight days after my grandma, Marilyn. The namesake for both my dad and I, my grandpa Stephen A. “Steve” Viz was one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. Born to Hungarian immigrants in Dayton, Ohio in 1936, Steve’s father passed away six weeks after he was born. Forged by his mother, older brothers and the city of Chicago that they called a new home, my grandpa’s life was anything but uneventful.

Two weeks after being sent home from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the health of both my grandparents began to decline. After several more health scares, my grandma was sent to a rehabilitation facility for nearly five weeks. When she was released, health compilations would then arise for my grandpa, a man who had survived a heart coronary nearly forty years before. When my grandma would return from facilities, my grandpa would enter them. A frustrating process for both me and my extended family, the five months before their deaths were filled with the dread of hospital food, COVID visitations and healthcare worker availability.

But even through all this, we came to see our quarantined spring and summer as a blessing from above. A hard reset, it gave my siblings, parents and me not only the chance to catch up, but to care for the grandparents who had cared for us for the entirety of our lives. These months were filled with belly laughs, great meals and stories. The true story of a scar on my grandpa’s lip even came to light. He detailed that in 1946, the best thing to do for kids in the city on a Saturday was to participate in a “rumble” where unwatched neighborhood children would fight each other and place wagers on it. Amidst the anxieties of COVID-19, these were the best of times.

After weeks of in-home, end-of-life care, my grandma passed away on the morning of Sept. 20 2020, with my brother Thomas at her side. Her wake and funeral followed a Friday/Saturday format that following week, and I could clearly tell that my grandpa was hurting. To see your spouse of 54 years be laid to rest would suck the life out of anyone, but still, my grandpa pushed through. On Sunday, he wanted to accompany my dad and I on the drive back to South Bend. Our 75-minute ride back from the southwest suburbs of Chicago went by quickly, but as we listened on the radio to the Bears defeating the Falcons and conversed, all agony and dismay dissolved. Following an evening of Noodles & Company and Culver’s custard, we exchanged goodbyes. “Stephen, I love you and am proud of you” were the final words he mentioned to me that night. Those would be the last words I would ever hear him say.

The following morning while in class, a quick barrage of texts noted news I was not expecting. “Grandpa just passed away on the drive to Christ Hospital. Congestive heart failure.” I had no words. I was stunned. Shell-shocked. Befuddled. Discombobulated. Leaving that class, I told the professor of my next class that I wasn’t going to be taking his midterm, returned to my room and sobbed.

My grandpa’s funeral would be that following weekend, exactly a week after my grandma’s funeral. And while we yearned as a family to be anywhere but that funeral home, something about these services was different. No longer was my grandfather in a wheelchair accepting condolences for the loss of his beloved wife. Rather, we took solace in the fact that after only eight days apart, my grandparents were united again once more on the heavenly plane. My cousin, an Augustinian priest, sealed my peace of mind with his homily at my grandfather’s funeral mass. “Love and do what you will. If we can say that Steve and Marilyn did this throughout their Christian life, then there is no doubt that they are reunited today in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.” Two years later, this anniversary is not a solemn one, but a joyful day of remembrance that commemorates the beautiful lives my grandparents lived.

So, to Steve and Marilyn: May God give you rest, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Stephen Viz is a one-year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or in Mendoza. He can be reached at sviz@nd.edu or on Twitter at @StephenViz.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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LIV, Laugh, Love: He’s a 10 but employed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund

I read this tweet three months ago when it was penned during the height of the “He/she’s a ten” memes and the LIV/PGA tour drama that escalated this summer. The context of this tweet directly refers to the persona of Brooks Koepka, golf’s resident bad boy and four-time major winner who spurned the PGA tour in favor of the endless riches that the LIV invitational series has come to offer. Brooks’ reputation is one of a good-looking athlete who really doesn’t care much about anything, and as someone who follows the sport, I thought it was funny (sue me). The weeks that followed this initial internet hysteria saw many household names on the PGA tour defect for this newly minted rival syndicate, LIV Golf, which is bankrolled by the Saudi sovereign fund (SSF). The SSF is one of the largest such funds in the world, bursting at the seams with $620 billion assets under management. The sole purpose of the fund is to invest funds on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government, and LIV CEO and major winner Greg Norman unveiled the league’s vision as something that would change the face of golf for the better.

Well thanks a lot, Greg, because it has only made things worse. Before and after Koepka’s defection, notable tour card holders such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Na and Patrick Reed all came join to LIV, thrusting the golf world into a civil war. Now, as the LIV and PGA seasons have ended and the former looks for a television rights partner, I would be remiss to not argue that for the foreseeable future, the landscape of professional golf has been ruined. Crushed like the Galactic Republic. Toppled like the Berlin Wall. The PGA tour may or may not be responsible for losing a dozen of its largest names to the LIV tour, but the conflict is here for good. As the riches of the Saudi backed syndicate seep through the sport, let me explain what I think lies ahead for professional golf.

A product of the global pandemic, golf’s popularity amongst amateurs has never been higher. Amongst spectators and the purchasing public however, the game has lacked the storylines outside of the LIV/PGA drama that generate interest, revenue and increased brand value. The decline of Tiger Woods since his riveting Masters victory in 2019 has played a role in this, but people are just not consuming the game like they used to. Now factor that the most idiosyncratic personalities in the sport (Koepka, Mickelson, DeChambeau, Johnson, etc.) have packed their bags and left, the PGA tour has a talent massive issue on their hands.

But so does LIV. And yes, I could talk about how the league is funded by a country who has no care for basic human rights and is no friend of the West. But when it comes to dollars and cents, they are as flush as one can be, and this has kept LIV leadership has silent regarding these societal issues. When asked about this track record of issues, Norman simply stated, “We’ve all made mistakes”. If Norman was referring to a 12-year-old who had stolen a candy bar from a gas station, that might’ve been the appropriate response. But for a country that didn’t allow women to drive until July of 2018, actively persecutes the LGBTQ+ community and puts journalists critical of the regime to death, do you really think they view their politics as mistakes Gregory?

But along with the horrific implications that go with being bankrolled by a morally inept evil oil empire, LIV golf is simply bad product. The name LIV derives from the Roman numerals for 54, as LIV golfers only play 54 holes in a weekend tournament, with no cuts to be missed or made. Compare this to the PGA tour, where a 72-hole tournament is played Thursday through Sunday, with a cut that shrinks the field by half being determined on Friday. Currently, if you don’t make the cut in a PGA event, you don’t get paid for the weekend. In addition to this, four day events separate the best from the rest, as the grueling rounds have made for memorable TV narratives. John Daly, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are all names that come to mind when you think of an excellent live sports narrative. For LIV, the answer for “will anyone actually watch this thing” is a no, because nothing is at stake. No matter what, these golfers have millions in their pocket.

An interesting conversation with a friend who attended an LIV event in New Jersey saw her comment to me, “It’s great, the players are treated much better on this tour than they are on the PGA”. And after it settled with me that this might be true, as I don’t know the realities of the differing working conditions for both groups, I realize in reflection the conclusion of my point. Golf is not only a rich’s man game, but a game that takes more mental stress on the body than it does physical. Golfers get to travel the world and enjoy a game where amateurs are routinely encouraged to drink like fish and gamble like heathens while playing. They are golfers. Not coal miners, teachers, first responders or rectors in Residence Halls here at Notre Dame. Its golf. For professionals, it is a tradition that nothing is given, but everything is earned. If you don’t like it, then take a day job and join where a country club that would be happy to have you participate in their events. Yes, as a business student I know and believe that everyone is entitled to earn as money as they would like to. But when you complain about conditions making millions a year putting a ball into a hole, and then spurn your employer to be paid to do the same thing by Saudi Arabia, I really don’t think you get a say in the matter.

Now many LIV golfers have danced around the question of their defection when the subject is broached. But Harold Varner III gave a blunt answer that moved against this trend. He described his contract as “life changing money” and a “financial breakthrough”. But as these record contracts continue to be signed, I would like to point out that no amount of money ever bought another second of time. LIV athletes are going to have plenty of time in their shortened weekends to think about their adjusted contribution to the sport of golf, society, and to their new reputations as professional athletes. So, as these LIV defectors enjoy their cash in a bathtub like Scrooge McDuck, I hope they reflect on what master they serve. And as no man can serve two, I hope this reflection will lead to the collapse of the LIV tour and not to the landscape of professional golf as we know it.

Stephen Viz is a One Year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or at Mendoza. He can be reached at sviz@nd.edu or on Twitter at @StephenViz.

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Notre Dame vs. Ohio State: The wolf rushes into the lion’s jaws

Robb Stark and Tywin Lannister. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The movie “300.” Rocky Balboa in Russia. Notre Dame football opening the 2022 season at The Shoe. All of these situations are synonymous with underdogs involved in the fight of a lifetime, and if the betting public has anything to say about it, The Fighting are a MASSIVE underdog this weekend. I love Marcus Freeman and his nonchalant attitude towards the -17.5 point line the Irish have been placed at, but nevertheless, Notre Dame will go into this as the largest underdog I think they’ve been placed in the last 20 years. 

But I am not here to talk about the state of Notre Dame Football, or even dabble to make a prediction about the outcome of the game or season. Ever since my 13-year-old self-predicted a 23-21 Irish victory on January 7, 2013, I don’t dare partake in such activities. On the contrary, I would love to speak to the fantastic time that visiting Notre Dame students will have this weekend if they have chosen to attend tomorrow’s game. Easily the most daunting early season matchup in recent memory, the threat of the outcome has not dissuaded undergrads and alumni alike from booking plans to drive into Columbus this weekend. And I applaud them. Because yes, regardless of your outcome in the student ticket lottery, and regardless of the score at the end of the contest, if you are traveling to the game, you are bound for the time of your life. 

Personally, I have had a euphoric experience as an Irish fan in a visiting stadium. The high, lows and adrenaline delivered by traveling and game-winning fields can almost rival game day at Notre Dame. Of course, I am spoiled that this game happened to be played in Tallahassee as we took on Florida State last year during Labor Day weekend, but I almost didn’t attend. Emphasis on almost. An invite to Tallahassee was extended to me early last August when I was told that a group of friends were planning to make a weekend out of the trip. They invited me and others to do the same. Skeptical at first, I cataloged almost every excuse in the book to avoid further conversations about attending. “The job search”, “homework”, “Who will walk my dog?” (I’ve never had a dog), “All my money is tied up in long term municipal bonds” were all excuses involved in my fight against the inevitable. But deep down, I really wanted to go. And finally, after a push from my mom, my bests friend and I decided to go over Spicy Siracha Caesar Salads at Bru Burger. Florida State vs. Notre Dame was on. 

We immediately booked $120 round trip flights (yes, the good old days), and flew out of O’Hare in the middle of the night to make it to Atlanta. From Atlanta we rented a car to make it Florida’s capital by Saturday afternoon. After Popeyes and Sunday mass at the Florida State Union, a truly incredible weekend was underway. The game itself was one of the best of 2021, and it prompted me to cry twice, once during the “Amazing Grace” tribute to Bobby Bowden and once again when the Seminoles tied the game at 38 all. Long exciting touchdowns by Michael Mayer were matched on the defensive side of the ball with the most impressive interception of the season by Kyle Hamilton. The game was a nail-biter through and through, and just when I thought it was over, the Irish won it on a game-winning field goal. And while the rest of the world listened to Brian Kelly comment on executing his players on national television (they’re just kids Brian!!), the Tomahawk chop continued to play on over and over in my head. But an Irish victory was reason for a fitting celebration, and I’ve got to tell you, our group of weary travelers from South Bend, now confidently self-dubbed the “Seminole Seven,” took every bit of deliberate enjoyment leaving the premises of Doak Campbell Stadium. 

So a piece of advice to students traveling to Columbus, Ohio this weekend. Be safe, be smart and win or lose, the 46556 will welcome you back Monday morning as the conquering heroes you are. And to Tim, Jack, Micah, Camden, Peter and Ryan. 

Go Irish and Long Live the Seminole Seven!

Stephen Viz

Stephen is a One Year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or at Mendoza. He can reached at sviz@nd.edu or on Twitter at @StephenViz